05-28-2020 Letters and Commentary

SO, HOW WAS YOUR MEMORIAL DAY WEEKEND? Mine was different from most as I recall.

Most the past 30 years or so for me was working on the paper, doing some yard work, getting out fishing at dawn for a couple hours and then going to the Memorial Day observance hosted by fellow veterans, remembering fallen comrades.

I suspect yours couldn’t be much different; you did some yard work, some business, a little exercise and then giving homage to all the heroes who gave their lives in defending our country.

We did it with family and friends… joining together to honor the men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice to ensure we’d have these wonderful holidays.

As a kid in Berkley Michigan, I recall counting the days to Memorial Day. It meant the last days of school and the beginning of the wonderful summer vacation in Oscoda on the shores of Lake Huron. I recall second guessing the grand design that made Memorial Day coincide with the end of the school year.

Remember when Memorial Day was also called Decoration Day? It was the spring day to clean up the yards and gardens. It was also the day to redecorate the graves of your loved ones. I recall visiting the graves of grandparents in a huge cemetery.

It seemed like forever to get out of the car and unload gardening tools, fresh flowers and bushel baskets to take the winter’s debris back with us. I hadn’t a clue where we were and thankfully, I wasn’t needed as a guide for the return trip.

Soon the clean up was done and Mom and Dad would lead us in a short prayer. I don’t know why I wrote short. Actually, the leaving took the most time, I thought. I surmised Mom and Dad wanted a few extra minutes to say goodbye. More likely they were dreading the hour-long drive to Berkeley, with 8-10 kids.

We were seated (packed by seniority) with eldest and babies across the back seat with the parents in front. Dad drove and Mom always rode with the youngest child on her lap. There were no seatbelts or kiddie seats. One’s safety depended on the quick wits and attention given by an older brother or sister.

Behind the back seat of the station wagon was called the cargo hold. A kind of no man’s land that the middle youngsters eagerly sought as soon as Dad dropped the tailgate and ordered us in. “Behave, or I’ll leave you here.”

No idle threat as sister Babette and I discovered one day.

Auto insurance changes coming July 1

Michigan drivers are a little more than a month away from saving money on their car insurance. The historic auto no-fault law, which was enacted a year ago, is set to take effect on July 1.

So much has happened in our state since the law was signed, especially with the coronavirus demanding our attention recently, that it has been easy to overlook what was the biggest change to auto insurance in our state in decades. The reforms, which I was a big proponent of, were designed to save drivers money by offering more options to better meet individuals’ needs, while improving coverage and consumer protections.

Michigan law requires auto insurance policyholders to carry personal injury protection (PIP), which covers medical costs if a driver is in an auto accident. On July 1, for the first time, motorists will be able to choose from a selection of new coverage levels to better meet their needs and budget.

Each PIP level represents the maximum amount a policy will pay per person per auto accident. Previously, all drivers had to pay for the most expensive, unlimited PIP plan regardless of need or budget, because it was the only plan offered. Senior citizens who are on Medicare and other motorists whose health insurance plans include coverage for auto accident injuries may now choose to opt out of PIP medical coverage on their auto insurance policy.

Under the new law, drivers may select: Unlimited; $500,000; $250,000; $50,000 (for those on Medicaid); Opt-out (for seniors with Medicare or others with a qualifying health plan).

All auto insurance companies doing business in the state must also reduce the cost of each PIP level for at least eight years. The unlimited plan must be lowered by an average of at least 10% per vehicle; the $500,000 plan by at least 20%; the $250,000 plan by at least 35%; and the $50,000 plan by at least 45%. Those choosing to opt out will not pay a PIP premium.

The new law also includes additional consumer protections, including: A fee schedule to control costs medical providers charge auto insurance companies; a new fraud investigation unit to crack down on auto-insurance-related crimes; tougher fines and penalties for bad actors in the insurance industry; elimination of non-driving factors, like ZIP code, homeownership status and marital status; preapproval of all auto insurance rates.

As we speed toward July 1, it is important that motorists talk with their insurance agents to learn about their options and how much they can save, before renewing their policies.

For more information on Michigan’s new auto insurance law, including a list of insurance agents, visit Michigan.gov/AutoInsurance, email AutoInsurance@Michigan.gov, or call 833-ASK-DIFS.

As always, residents can contact my office with any state or local issues by calling (517) 373-6960 or emailing senklasata@senate.michigan.gov.

COVID-19 pandemic underscores need to expand internet access

Two months have passed since schools, businesses and non-emergency health clinics across Michigan shut their doors as a result of the COVID-19 pandemic. As educators, employers and physicians were forced to adapt to virtual settings to practice social distancing, it became abundantly clear how crucial internet access is.

While the abnormally high demand for internet has put more pressure on our broadband infrastructure, it has also exposed the digital divide between our state’s urban and rural communities. There are thousands of Southwest Michigan residents with little to no access to broadband services; however, recent funding has been awarded to Van Buren and Allegan counties to help address this issue.

Southwest Michigan Communications Inc. has recently received $10.7 million in a loan / grant combination to deploy Fiber-to-the-Premises (FTTP) broadband services to Van Buren and Allegan counties. The initiative is part of the USDA’s ReConnect Pilot Program.

The project will extend broadband availability to 22 farms, 19 businesses, and 7,700 residents spread over 100 square miles of Southwest Michigan.

The internet is no longer a luxury – it’s a necessity. Our children are remote learning, many workers and job providers are conducting business from home; and for many patients the only way to receive the routine and preventative health care they need is via telehealth.

The integral resources provided by the grant funding will help connect thousands of people in our most rural communities with internet access. To learn more about ReConnect Program eligibility, technical assistance, and recent announcements, visit www.usda.gov/reconnect.

Connection to the world outside our homes has become vital to our way of life, and I will keep working to make sure Southwest Michigan families have access to reliable, high-speed internet.

As always, please do not hesitate to contact my office with any questions or concerns. You can reach me toll free at 1-800-577-6212, via email at BethGriffin@house.mi.gov and on Facebook at www.facebook.com/RepBethGriffin.

Holding on

When I go fishing, the fish are generally safe. I do better with fishing nets at the beach than with various hook and line fishing techniques. Yet I enjoy fishing. I like some card games that I seldom win. I like the games anyway. And there are times when light exposure level on an image is wrong, but I enjoy photography. Why is that? Maybe it’s because we are made to enjoy the learning of something rather than just the being victorious in the effort. We know that victory will come if we just keep learning. If we’re willing to learn, sooner or later we will be successful, and we will have the rewards of victory – which could include less fishing and more catching!

There are spiritual applications of this idea as well. Jesus was very patient with His disciples as they gradually learned who He really was and why He came. They had an issue with the idea of crucifixion. It was not until later that they would understand the necessity for His death and resurrection. The idea that the future King of Israel would have to suffer and die was counter-intuitive to them.

There’s a lot of life that is “counter-intuitive”. That’s when we have to fall back on our faith, and let it grow. Both of us (God and us personally) realize that more faith is necessary to make it through much of life. We may need to hang on to the end of that rope even harder.

There is a promise in Scripture: “Be anxious for nothing, but in everything by prayer and supplication, with thanksgiving, let your requests be made known to God, and the peace of God, which passes understanding, will keep your hearts and minds in Christ Jesus.” (Philippians 4:6,7)

We can hold on to life if we hold on to God. There’s always more to learn.

Our nation’s heroes: Gone but never forgotten

In the wake of the coronavirus crisis, Memorial Day looked a little different this year. Family barbecues were put on hold, many ceremonies were held virtually, and the annual St. Joe Memorial Day Parade – which I have marched in for some 35 years – was canceled completely. During this time of grief for many families, rather than coming together to console broken hearts and remember our fellow Americans, we stayed apart.

This is certainly not the way we would have liked to honor our fallen heroes, but even amid a global pandemic Americans across the country paused to remember those who made the ultimate sacrifice in defense of our nation and way of life.

From Southwest Michigan to Washington, D.C., ceremonies safely proceeded to honor the brave men and women who served our country but never returned home.

We are the land of the free because of our brave, and we can never truly repay those who gave their life to safeguard liberty and defend freedom. May we continue to honor their memory and remember their sacrifice today and every day. God bless our fallen heroes and God bless America.

To learn more about important legislative issues, follow me on Twitter at @RepFredUpton or by visiting my website: upton.house.gov. You can also call my offices in Kalamazoo (269-385-0039), St. Joseph / Benton Harbor (269-982-1986), or Washington, D.C. (202-225-3761).

“Best Mom” Thank You

Dear Editor,

We would like to “Thank You” and your staff for honoring us with the “Best Mom” award and the beautiful bouquet of roses. We also would like to thank the Watervliet Flower Basket for making the beautiful rose arrangement and the Country Store (Watervliet Fruit Exchange) for the Knockout rose plant. We were both so excited to have had this experience and presentation which was so special to us both!

Jean Stainbrook “Best Mom”

and daughter Sherry Turner

Museum staff preserves local history while pandemic keeps doors closed

Dear Editor,

We have all been hit or affected in one way or another during this outbreak of COVID-19. At the North Berrien Historical Museum, we have had to close our physical doors and alter the way we, as staff, fulfill the Museum’s mission. The mission of the North Berrien Historical Society is “to preserve and distribute information regarding the history of North Berrien County. To promote research, encourage learning, and disseminate knowledge of the area’s cultural and architectural legacy”.

Throughout March and April, Carole Kiernan, Manager of Visitor Services, and I have been alternating days we have been present at the Museum to conduct necessary business needs and to check on the facility. Peter Cook, Director of Programs & Outreach, Carole, and I have all been managing with remote access for the remaining workdays. Although working from home presents many challenges, we have been able to gain a lot of momentum on social media, particularly Facebook.

If you are a Facebook user and have not been on the North Berrien Historical Museum’s page, please do so! We post every weekday and have had fantastic engagement and feedback from our followers. Thank you to those who are already following us online.

In May, we have continued our engagement online but have changed the location from which we work. The three of us are now working at the Museum, and it feels good to be back! It will feel even better when we can open our doors again to the community. Currently, our in-person programs have been postponed and rescheduled. This includes our Print Shop exhibit reopening that has been postponed until mid-September.

Lastly, there is no question that this is a historic time and that it must be remembered. At the Museum, we have been collecting information since early March, but I would like your help as well. Once restrictions are lifted, we will be collecting signs, homemade facemasks, and conducting interviews. If you would like to help with our collection, please reach out by giving us a call (269) 468-3330 or emailing us at Info@northberrienhitory.org

Please stay tuned for future online opportunities and for the eventual reopening of the North Berrien Historical Museum. As always, thank you all for your continued support of this organization.

Jack Greve

Executive Director & Curator

North Berrien Historical Museum

Jeep Club Hope Cruise

Dear Editor,

The Paw Paw River Jeep Club has been leading a gift card drive (called “The Hope Cruise”) to encourage local restaurants during this quarantine period. It has been a blast – over $6,000 worth of gift cards have been purchased so far!

Any Coloma restaurant that is open, accepts credit cards, and has gift cards can participate.

How it works: Call a Coloma restaurant and order a gift card. Tell them it’s with the Jeep Club Hope Cruise. Give them your address and phone number. Over the month of July, we will deliver the cards to your house in a convoy of Jeeps!

We are “spotlighting” different restaurants each week, but you can call any restaurant with the above criteria at any time to be involved. Follow Brian Smith on Facebook for up to date info (it also gets posted on the “Paw Paw Lake Love” Facebook group).

Here is our plan moving forward. The Hope Cruise gift card drive will end on June 30 – so put your orders in before then! Over the month of June, we will be spotlighting more restaurants – follow Brian Smith or Theresa Bohle on Facebook. We will be delivering the gift cards throughout the month of July.

Please call Brian Smith with questions: 269-468-4153.


Brian Smith, Coloma

Covid19 Facts

Dear Editor,

The following appeared on social media and sums up why so many of us are fed up with these “rules” mostly passed by our Slow to Learn Governor. (I say slow to learn, because after 3 or 4 protests you think she would know what the people want.)

You know we could open our state and the ones that the fake media has scared to death could stay home. Not sure how the government can legally make me stay home unless they prove I am ill and a risk to others.

The author of the following is Ryan Silverthorn.

I will add one more thought; if these worthless masks really work, then why are we kept home?

“Covid19 Facts:

The virus can travel 6’ it can not travel 6’1 or greater, it can live on all surfaces except anything that comes in the mail from Amazon, it does not live in Target, Walmart, Home Depot, Lowes or any grocery store, it is only deadly in bars, restaurants, small businesses, hair salons and especially churches, and it can not live on your food as long as you get it to go.”

Dennis Bachman, Benton Harbor


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